festivals B1+

festivals B1+



1 Work in groups. Look at the name of the celebration and the photos. What type of day do you think it is? How do you think people celebrate?

I f you happen to be on holiday or travelling in the US during the end of November, you will definitely get a chance to experience Thanksgiving. Each year on the fourth Thursday of November, Americans celebrate the tradition of giving thanks for what they have in their life. It has been a national holiday since 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln made it a national day of thanksgiving, but people have celebrated the day for centuries. Many people trace the origins of the modern Thanksgiving to the season harvest celebrated by the first people who settled in America, the pilgrims. It was first held in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621. The Thanksgiving holiday’s history in North America is rooted in English traditions dating from the 16th century. Similar to a harvest festival, the pilgrims celebrated the crops and food they successfully grew that year.

Today, Thanksgiving is a day when families and friends come together for a special meal. Food is a big part of the day’s celebrations and all the family take part in the preparations. Traditional food includes turkey, sweet potatoes, gravy, stuffing, cornbread, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce. A pie is also served for dessert with pumpkin pie.

Other traditions include The Turkey Pardon. The President of the United States receives a gift of a live turkey and at a White House ceremony, the president ‘pardons’ the national Thanksgiving turkey and spares the bird’s life, ensuring that it will spend the rest of its life free on a farm. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is another part of the celebrations. It started in 1924. The three-hour event is held in New York and begins in the morning. Every year over 3.5 million people line the streets and watch the parade in the city and over 50 million people tune in on TV to see the giant balloons, the spectacular floats, amazing street performances, live music and performances from famous singers and bands. The parade ends with the arrival of Father Christmas, which of course signals the start of Christmas.

2 Read the article and match the words with their definitions.

  • 1 pilgrims D
  • 2 crops _
  • 3 origins _
  • 4 gravy _
  • 5 harvest _
  • 6 parade _
  • A the point at which something starts
  • B the time of year when the crops are gathered in on a farm
  • C people and special vehicles moving along a street
  • D the first group of people who travelled to and settled in America
  • E a kind of brown meat sauce
  • F a plant that is grown in large quantities, especially as food

3 In pairs, discuss about a festival in your town, region or country that has a long history behind it.

  • • Does it have an interesting story?
  • • How do you celebrate?
  • • What do you like about the celebration?


1 In pairs, discuss the answers to these questions.

  • • What New Year’s celebrations are popular in your country?
  • • Are there any New Year celebrations from around the world that you would like to take part in?


As most of you know I’ve lived in Scotland for four years now. I moved here with my family from Rome.

Every year we usually go back to Italy to spend Christmas and New Year’s with my grandparents, but this year we’ll be spending it in Edinburgh. My parents’ friends are having a New Year’s Eve party and they have invited us over to their house. I’m really excited to see how everyone celebrates.

In Scotland the celebration of New Year is called Hogmanay and it is a huge event.

The word Hogmanay comes from a type of cake made from oats that was traditionally given to children on New Year’s Eve. The celebration usually starts on the 31st December and lasts for a day or two into the New Year. In Edinburgh a spectacular fireworks display is held and a torchlight procession goes through the streets. Just before midnight on New Year’s Eve friends and families gather in their homes or out in the streets where they count down to the New Year. As the clocks strike twelve, everyone hugs and kisses and wishes each other a happy new year. As the New Year begins, the fireworks are set off.

There are also a number of very ancient traditions associated with Hogmanay. Traditionally, the New Year started with a custom called first footing. Neighbours visited each other’s houses bringing traditional gifts including a piece of coal, some bread or some money. The first person to enter the house in the New Year, the first foot, was thought to bring good luck. The visitor would then take some dust or ashes from a fireplace when they left to signify the end of the old year. Another tradition is singing the song Auld Lang Syne (from old Scottish dialect, ‘times gone by’).

People also make New Year’s resolutions. They decide on something they would like to improve in their life. I’m planning to get more active and take up running! Hogmanay sounds fun and I can’t wait to celebrate!

2 Read the text and find words from the article with the following meanings.

  • 1 a type of cereal
  • 2 an accepted way of doing things in a society or a community
  • 3 a black mineral that produces heat
  • 4 what is left after it has been burnt
  • 5 the form of a language that is spoken in one particular area
  • 6 a firm decision to do something

3 Work in pairs.

Student A: You are going to spend this New Year’s Eve in Edinburgh. Convince a friend in the class to go with you. You have been to the festival before. Describe how people celebrate and answer any questions that your friend asks.

Student B: You have never been to Edinburgh. A friend is going to ask you to go with him / her to spend New Year’s Eve. Ask questions about how people celebrate the day there and decide if you want to go.

3-St. Valentine ’s Day

  • • How do you celebrate St. Valentine’s Day in your country?
  • • Have you ever sent or received a St. Valentine’s Day card?
  • • Do you personally celebrate St. Valentine’s Day?

Last week while I was getting ready to leave the house, I discovered that a mysterious letter had arrived. I knew immediately it was a Valentine’s Day card because not only was it 14th February, but the letter was in a red envelope. However, who was it from? When I opened the envelope there was a card inside which read: ‘To my valentine, from ?’

In my country, Finland, we don’t usually send cards, so I was really surprised to receive anything. I remembered my English friend living in Oxford, UK, would receive cards each year and to be honest I didn’t know much about the day, so I asked her what it was all about. Emma told me that in Britain people liked to send Valentine’s Day cards, flowers, chocolates and other small gifts. Traditionally these gifts were sent anonymously and people would sign the cards with a question mark, but nowadays people often make it clear who is sending them. She said she had read that in Britain people spent around £500 million on Valentine Day’s gifts each year, which is incredible! She didn’t really know why we celebrated the day so I decided to find out more.

I read online that the history behind the holiday isn’t clear, and there are many legends. The roots of the day are in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia. It was Pope Gelasius I that recognized this festival as a Christian feast day in 496, declaring the 14th February to be Valentine’s Day.

It wasn’t until the Middle Ages that the day became associated with love thanks to the famous English writer Geoffrey Chaucer. Then in 18th-century England, it evolved into an occasion where people expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering sweets, and sending greeting cards known as ‘Valentines’. One of the most well-known Valentine’s Day symbols is the figure of the winged Cupid, the god of love.

That’s all well and good you may be thinking, but who sent me a Valentine’s Day card? That’s a good question and still one I’m trying to find the answer to myself!

Read the text and complete.

  • Date of the festival:
  • What people do in Britain:
  • Traditions of the day Roots of the festival:

3 With a partner make notes about St. Valentine’s Day in your country. Use the table in exercise 2. Add any extra information.

4 Do a presentation of the festival or celebration to your class

4-St. Patrick’s Day


1 In pairs, discuss what you know about St. Patrick’s Day.

  • Do people celebrate the day in your country?
  • Who?
  • How do they celebrate?

Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in London doesn’t just take place on the actual day itself, the 17th of March, but over the last decade it has turned into a 5-day event. It is dedicated to the patron saint of Ireland and even though the biggest of the festivities take place in Ireland, it is also widely celebrated around the world. The festival is traditionally celebrated with street parades and parties. Another tradition is ‘wearing of the green’, where people wear an item of green clothing. Shamrocks, the leaf of the clover plant, are known as a symbol of Ireland, and are also worn on clothes or displayed on posters and banners.

London has been celebrating St. Patrick’s Day since 2002 with street festivals attracting huge crowds of people. I had never been to a St. Patrick’s Day festival before, so my friend, Marko, and I decided to see the St. Paddy’s Day parade in Piccadilly. It was an amazing event! There were spectacular marching bands, wonderful floats, different street theatre groups and costumed characters.

The parade’s floats represent the 32 different Irish counties. I enjoyed seeing the puca, a 36 metre inflatable dragon that was paraded along the streets. I found out that a puca is usually a creature from Irish folklore and is thought to bring both good and bad luck.

London has free performances celebrating Irish culture, from step dancing to River dance. The theme for last year’s parade was ‘World of Dance’ and there were dance groups from across London celebrating the rich heritage of dance within Irish culture. As well as listening to music and watching the dancing, we tried some tasty St. Patrick’s Day food at the food market. Marko tried the Irish potato soup, and I tried the Irish potato champ. It combines mashed potato, chopped spring onions with butter and milk. We also tried some Irish brown bread and the corned beef and cabbage. If you’re ever visiting London on St. Patrick’s Day, I suggest you don’t miss the chance to take part in the festivities. It was fantastic!

2 Read the text and complete:

  • Name of the festival
  • When it happens
  • Which country it takes place in
  • The traditions

3 In pairs, discuss about a celebration that is dedicated to the patron saint of your town, city or country.

  • • Who is the patron saint?
  • • When do you celebrate?
  • • How do you celebrate?
  • • Is there any special food that you eat?

5-AnzAc DAy

Spanish Radio Interview with War Veteran Murray Cosgrove about Anzac Day

Interviewer: Murray, most of our listeners won’t be familiar with Anzac Day. Can you tell them a little bit about it?

Murray: Well, Anzac Day on the 25th April is probably Australia and New Zealand’s most important national occasion. Originally the day marked the anniversary of the first major military action fought by the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, ANZAC, at Gallipoli in Turkey during the First World War. Today, it commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders who have served and died in wars and conflicts. Rather than a celebration, it is a day of remembrance.

Interviewer: Why is this day special to Australians and New Zealanders?

Murray: During the First World War, Australian and New Zealand soldiers set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula and Constantinople, now Istanbul in Turkey, an ally of Germany. The Australian and New Zealand forces met fierce resistance from the Ottoman Turkish defenders and the campaign lasted for eight months. Over 8,000 Australian soldiers were killed. The 25th April soon became the day on which Australians remembered the sacrifice of those who had died. The creation of what became known as the ‘ANZAC legend’ is an important part of the identity of both nations.

Interviewer: How do Australians and New Zealanders commemorate the day?

Murray: Different services are held throughout the day with the first beginning at dawn, which takes place at the same time the first soldiers arrived at Gallipoli during the war. Families, young people and war veterans march to the nearest war memorial in their town or city. Hymns are read, the national anthem is sung, a piper plays music and wreaths of red poppies are laid at the memorial. Finally a two-minute silence is held.

Interviewer: What else happens on the day?

Murray: At the Australian War Memorial, the Anzac Day ceremony takes place at 10.15am, which is attended by the prime minister and the governor general. The Anzac Day ceremony is televised every year and is watched by people across the country.

2 Read the text. In pairs, discuss the answers to these questions.

  • 1 Who does Anzac Day commemorate in Australia and New Zealand?
  • 2 What happened to the soldiers that were sent to Turkey?
  • 3 Why do they hold the first service at dawn?
  • 4 What happens during the dawn service?
  • 5 How are people able to see the Anzac Day ceremony?

3 In groups, think about how you commemorate war veterans and soldiers in your country. Then plan a special ceremony. Share your ideas with your class

6-US Independence day

What is the 4th of July? Also known as the Fourth of July, US Independence Day is a national holiday that celebrates the signing of the Declaration of Independence. After the decades-long American Revolution, independence was declared from the British Empire on the 4th July 1776. On that day, a formal statement was approved by parliament explaining its decision to break free and form a new nation. That document, the Declaration of Independence, was prepared by a committee that involved Thomas Jefferson.

Over the years, not much has changed in the way Americans celebrate their country’s birthday. Early festivities featured speeches, music, parades, fireworks, and red-white-and-blue flags. Today, patriotic displays and family events are organized throughout the country

Step-by-step guide to how to celebrate

Hang a United States flag from your house roof, on your car or bike, or outside your school or the place you work. If you’re throwing a party, put up a string of flags in your garden or local park. Other decorations, streamers and balloons, are also put up and coloured red, white and blue, the colours of the US’s flag.

Read a copy of the Declaration of Independence. It’s about one to two pages long, and it’s an interesting way to see what the American people fought for and why it is still important and relevant to today.

Dress up patriotically. Red, white and blue clothes are worn and some people choose to wear outfits with the US flag design on them.

Take part in games or events. Families often celebrate Independence Day by having or going to a picnic or barbeque. Popular foods include hot dogs, hamburgers, corn on the cob, apple pie and coleslaw. Lots of fun activities are played on the day too such as watermelon eating competitions and sporting events like baseball games, three-legged races, swimming activities and tug-of-war games.

Watch a parade. Independence Day Parades are held in most towns and cities across the country. They attract thousands of spectators who line the streets waving their flags and clapping the war veterans walking past. There are bands, floats, military band processions, as well as local and national dignitaries, and celebrity participants.

2 Read the text. In pairs, cover the text about US Independence Day and discuss what you remember about the things below.

  • Declaration of Independence
  • 4th July 1776
  • red, white and blue flags
  • watermelon
  • war veterans

3 What would a celebration of your country’s independence include? In small groups, make a list of activities, food and clothing that represent your country. Then make a poster to advertise the celebration and present it to the class.